Monday 23 September 2019

'No country should ask us to apologise' - Turkish Prime Minister defiant over downing of Russian jet

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Turkey's prime minister has said his country will not apologise to Russia for shooting down a warplane operating over Syria that crossed through Turkish airspace.

Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey also hopes that Moscow will reconsider economic sanctions it announced against Turkish interests in the wake of last week's incident.

Mr Davutoglu told reporters that "no Turkish prime minister or president will apologise... because of doing our duty."

He spoke after a meeting with the Nato chief in Brussels and said Turkey remains open to talks with Russia about ways to avoid such incidents in the future.

President Vladimir Putin's foreign affairs adviser has said the Russian leader had not taken calls from Turkey's president because there has been no Turkish apology.

Russia insists the plane did not intrude on Turkish airspace.

Mr Davutoglu told reporters after meeting Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels: "Protection of Turkish airspace, Turkish borders is a national duty, and our army did their job to protect this airspace.

"But if the Russian side wants to talk, and wants to prevent any future unintentional events like this, we are ready to talk."

Turkey is a member of the Nato alliance.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said he was deeply concerned about tensions between Russia and Turkey after Turkish F-16s shot down a Russian warplane on November 24.

Russia on September 30 began airstrikes in Syria that it says are focused on fighters of the Islamic State, but which some observers say target other rebel groups and are aimed at bolstering the forces of President Bashar Assad.

Russia insists that the plane that was shot down did not intrude on Turkish airspace.

Mr Davutoglu insisted a violation occurred, and said Turkey had repeatedly warned Russia about incursions into its airspace.

"We also made very clear that the Turkish-Syria border is a national security issue for Turkey. So it was a defensive action," Mr Davutoglu said. He repeated Turkish assertions that there were no IS fighters in the area.

"We have been telling our Russian friends that their bombardments against civilians on our border is creating new waves of refugees which do not go to Russia or to any other country - but coming to Turkey," he said.

"And Turkey, after every bombardment, (is) receiving more and more - tens of thousands of refugees from Syria," Mr Davutoglu added. "Turkey is a country paying the price of this crisis."

On Monday, Russia said it will restrict imports of Turkish fruit and vegetables as part of a package of new sanctions.

Deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich said the fruit and vegetable ban could be deferred for "several weeks" to allow Russian firms to find new suppliers and curb price rises.

The new measures announced at a meeting chaired by prime minister Dmitry Medvedev also include a government veto on Turkish construction firms working in Russia and restrictions on road transport.

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